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Summary

Why does it feel like something to be alive? For one of the boldest thinkers in neuroscience, solving this puzzle has been a lifetime's quest. Now at last, Mark Solms, who discovered the brain mechanism for dreaming, has arrived at his answer. More than just a philosophical argument, the Free Energy theory will profoundly change how you understand your own existence.

The very idea that a breakthrough is possible may seem outrageous. Isn't consciousness intangible, beyond the reach of empirical methods? Yet Solms shows in forensic detail how misguided assumptions have concealed its nature. Only by sticking closely to the medical facts does a way past our obstacles appear. Join him on an extraordinary voyage into the strange realms beyond and learn what we really are.

©2021 Mark Solms (P)2021 Hachette Audio UK

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Inspiring !

Great read. There are areas I would like more clarity on.. free energy I found difficult to grasp and as it becomes very important as the book continues it would be good to spend more time on it and remind the reader of its principles when talked about later. The explanation of the Markov blanket were excellent and reminded me of Penrose idea of surfaces on his alternative to Big Bang... “to see the wold in a grain of sand..”. The design of the big and the small being in effect the same. I get the ‘feeling’ solms is just warming and there is much more to come ! Thanks you :)

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My mind is blown !!!

I wand to speed forward life by 40 years, and see to what their resurch will lead to. Also I wish I was smart enough to fully comprehend all that was discussed in the book. I enjoyed the book through, very beautifuly written !!!!

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I feel, therefore I think.

Completely fascinating account of how consciousness emerges, subject to (not distinct from) laws of nature.

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  • Damian
  • 19-04-21

Flawed but Important

Solms' work is interesting and valuable. It might even be important. The book is difficult and problematic however. Solms never manages to fully connect the dots (I recommend going straight to the postscript to find out what these dots are). There is much of value in his account of affect and its significance, but his approach to what he (following many others) calls the hard problem of consciousness is based on a sophism. The hard problem of consciousness is to explain how neural correlates of consciousness, together with an account of their functionality, leads to the experience of qualia - the particular character of conscious awareness. Solms has developed an interesting theory of these correlates and their function. Consciousness is affect: it is the hedonic registering and comparison of both internal and external or contextual states (this state is good, this state is bad; get me out of here now...). He calls this preference wrangling and associated demands for action "feeling". But then he wonders how could a feeling not be felt? Feelings must be like something: they must be qualia.

The hard problem of consciousness is left hanging because Solms nowhere explains why all this wrangling of preferences couldn't happen "in the dark". Calling them feelings simply begs the question. It's a shame because the book would be better if Solms had stuck with the easy problem of consciousness - a problem which is not easy and is, in any case, much more important than the hard problem. Indeed, the hard problem of consciousness is a philosophical mess and requires a philosophical clean-up: either by way of an extravagant metaphysical theory such as David Chalmers' - discussed at length in Solms' book - or by disarming the problem, showing that it is based on a confusion. (See the classic paper "Quining Qualia" by Daniel Dennett.) Trying to resolve the hard problem of consciousness with the resources of neuroscience and psychology isn't going to work.

Solms' writing is sometimes lucid and engaging and at other times it reads like a brutal attempt to batter the reader into submission. It has some of the worst passages of science writing I have ever encountered, but also some of the best. Roger Davis reads the book intelligently, but I found his voice a little grating. It's a voice better suited to less insistent and demanding works.